What is Lustful Intent?

“But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
—Jesus (Matthew 5:28 ESV)

My friend, Chris, gave this helpful analogy. He compared the situation many people have with lust to a desire or craving for food. Remember, lust simply means desire. In this example his wife has this “glorious” dinner planned and wants him to enjoy it, so she asks him not to eat anything between breakfast and dinner. She wants him to be very hungry come dinner time. He promises not to eat anything and save his big appetite (he really likes to eat). Then after skipping lunch and not eating all day, on the way home he drives past a burger joint. The belly starts to rumble, and the whole nervous system alerts him to the smell of these burgers. He’s so hungry. He could just get one burger, eat in the parking lot and then go home and eat a lot more. No harm, right?

At the red light he says, “I really feel that I want to eat a burger … you know what? Deep breath. I’m going straight home and I’m going to have dinner with my wife. And I go home and I eat, fulfilling my promise.” Not incredibly hard.

As soon as he felt that longing, some people would call it “sin” with the way they interpret lust. But at the red light, with the window down and the smell coming in, he’s ok in his promise made to his wife, because he’s not making a plan to act. In Chris’ explanation he says, “Keeping the promise to not form an intention to go and eat my big, glorious dinner is fairly simple, fairly easy. However, demanding that I not feel hungry when I smell food is unreasonable. The same goes for lust.”

Then, say, in a long line at the bank there is an attractive lady. Noticing her physical attractiveness is not sin. But entertaining ideas of how you could be together when she is not your wife—envisioning having coffee together and then maybe more—this is a different story. With this plan in mind, as soon as you talk to her to start a conversation with that intention, that’s wrong. Chris continues saying, “It’s not wrong to feel attracted to people. What’s wrong is forming an intention … That is what Jesus is getting at when he says lustful intent in your heart. As soon as you turn around, form an intention, you actually begin the first little smidgen of trying to do that thing, you’ve committed that sin.” It’s really not so hard this way, and it’s the way it ought to be. You just say no. You simply commit to the other—to the better choice—which also aligns with your promises.


3 thoughts on “What is Lustful Intent?

  1. Steven Howatt

    Good discussion of a difficult topic. At first I had some issue with “lust” merely being defined as a desire, but I think the food illustration serves well what you meant. As believers many of us have been schooled over the years to regard “desire” as a negative thing, but it is absolutely not! Desires can be very legitimate and empowering! One component that does not seem to be directly mentioned in the examples given is that lust is about fulfilling even legitimate desires but in one’s own way and in one’s own timing, though the desire be legitimate. Jesus successfully avoided these desires at the end of his 40-day wilderness fast by focusing on how God intended to satisfy the legitimate desires, rather than the “quick fixes” Satan offered.

    I really like James 1 on this, verses 14 and 15: “14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it has run its course, brings forth death. ” It reveals lust to be a process that can begin in a small fashion, like a baby does in conception, which is quite a way down the road from “birth”. There are many opportunities to put the brakes on, and TURN. I do not think, however, that the initial wrong headed thinking is sin, but the fruition is in behavior, the failure to “take every thought captive to the obedience to Christ.”

    Thanks for bringing this forward!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Jan

    Ok, I get the idea of intent and forming a plan. But really now, I think the sin of lust happened sooner. In mudwalker’s example, the intent wasn’t real if you didn’t form a plan to go through the drive through. Too late. What if I really desired that burger but didn’t plan a trip through the drive through because I’m a coward and fear it getting back to my wife. Let’s say her best friend works there. Sorry. Lust happened without a plan to execute because of fear of getting caught.


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